"You must feel horrible," Deb said, and I pulled up my dejected face. At least I thought it was dejected. I hadn't had much practice at it since Dad died. "Stop keeping it all inside." She put a hand on my arm, lightly, as if she didn't know if that was the right approach. "You know I'm here for you."
I looked down for a few moments while I once again pondered the logistics of it all. Without Rita I would have less time than ever for my extracurricular expeditions. The kids would demand time, food, guidance... Actually I had no idea how to raise the kids by myself. There would very probably be a plethora of things I would need help with. Maybe I could search the registers at work for other abused victims of ex-husbands? Rita had been very good, in very many ways, even if she had been annoying and stifling in others, and it only made sense to find a woman who was as much like Rita as possible to replace her. The kids might not even know the difference after a while.
"I'm so, so sorry," Debs said, in the same tone of voice she had used the whole time she'd been here. She squeezed my arm.
To my discomfort, she then started to cry. I had no idea why. Rita hadn't been her wife, after all. I brought my hand up and patted her shoulder. In a way, she reminded me of Rita, like this. Rita had always been weepy, although Debra rarely was. I turned and hugged her, just like Rita had wanted me to so many times, and Debs folded gratefully into my arms, just like that. Surely, it would only take a minute or two, and then we could go on to more important things. At least the killer was gone. His smiling face crossed my inner landscape. It had long before this occurred to me why he had been so pleased and calm before his death.
"Dex," Debra sniffled into my shoulder, and I pulled back, mildly annoyed at her snot which was surely leaking into the fabric of my shirt. "Dex," she said again, as if I hadn't heard her, and she looked me in the eye, a shine of determination in them that I hadn't seen a minute ago. "I'm there for you. I mean it. I'll move into the house and help with the kids. You can count on me."
I was surprised, and it probably showed, because she grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me slightly.
"I will. I'll be everything you need. I'm your family, and that's fucking important." She looked like she'd made up her mind entirely, and here was my solution. Astor and Cody already loved her, and Harrison would never know the difference. No, Debra wasn't like Rita - none of that shy, scared invisibility in her that Rita's scars had given her - but she had her own problems. Only downside I could see was that Debs would probably want sex more often than Rita had. I pressed my lips together at the thought of having to go through with the sticky, unpleasant business maybe as often as twice a week, and Deb saw it, put her hand behind my head and pulled me closer, until my forehead rested against hers.
"I mean it. Get it through your skull," she whispered, while I watched her blurry eyes that stared into mine.
"Okay," I said.